In An Age Before – Part 24

Chapter Thirty

Belegaer, West of Forlindon – The Second Age of the Sun

After the Battle of Glanduin and the breaking of Sauron's Host, but ere the army of Imladris marched to battle, Helluin and Beinvír had taken their leave of the hidden valley, and this was not done without cause. On their third night together they had been resting in the room at the hospice that the Green Elf had occupied since her arrival. It qualified as one of her longest stays under a roof anywhere. That night, as a gentle rain fell and brought the song of moving water to the woods, they beheld a vision of the Lord Ulmo. This time Helluin recognized him immediately and bowed her head in reverence.

"Heldalúne Maica i móremenel¹, of late thou hast triumphed in war, but in the Song of Endóre thy victory is but a day's skirmish and a far greater doom lie'th ahead," the Lord of the Waters declared. "Far beyond thy years upon Endóre shalt be fought I Tella Ohtale², and for it, one thou know'st not must of needs be armed. Thou hast aforetime succored the line of Huor. Now comes the time to do thus for the line of Hurin. To his house too doth thou owe a debt." ¹(Heldalúne = helda (naked) + lúne (blue), Quenya trans of SindarinHelluin = hel(d) (naked) + luin (blue)Maica i móremenel, Piercing the Dark Heavens = maica (piercing) + i (art, the) + móre (dark) + menel (heavens) Quenya trans of the Sindarin Maeg-mórmenel) ²(I TellaOhtale,The Last Great War= I (def art, the) + tella (last) + ohta (war) + -(a)le (general intensive) Quenya, called the Dagor Dagorath in Sindarin)

"I acknowledge it," Helluin said gravely, "what act is asked of me in repayment?"

Beside her Beinvír stared at the Vala with eyes wide in awe. She felt his presence surging in her blood, as waves rolling upon an inner shore, and the Light in his face was utterly compelling.

"Thither shalt thou go, to that most sacred mortal isle upon Belegaer; that land which was't aforetime 'nigh the Cabed Naeramarth. There shalt thou see standing a stone. There shalt thou seek the brother of thy most stalwart of allies. His sister shalt show thy way. Bring hence the brother's broken body that it may be mended ere the Song's end and returned to the hand it favors."

At this, Helluin's eyes widened in surprise. Never before even to the ears of the Wise had a Vala declared the fate beyond death of even one of the Second Born Children of Iluvatar. Then she recalled the words of her friend, Glorfindel, returned from death and the Blessed Realm before the war. "In the First Song was all presaged, and so the world runs on to its conclusion, the struggle's final end in the Dagor Dagorath, which, mind thou, shalt be championed by a Man avenged."

"I shalt do thy bidding, Lord Ulmo," Helluin said as she bowed her head. At his summons she again felt a great doom laid upon her.

"As thou hast aforetime," Ulmo said, "and as before, thou art the only upon Endóre whom I would ask." He paused for a moment, as if regarding her with sadness, but he said only, "Seek thou in Mithlond after Captain Mórfang¹ of Númenórë." ¹(Mórfang, Black Beard= mór, (black) + fang (beard) Sindarin)

For one instant his eyes shifted to Beinvír and he smiled upon her in blessing, but as with Helluin a moment before, there was sadness in his eyes.

In the next moment the vision faded and they were released. Beinvír gasped but Helluin was already reviewing all the Vala had said. Cabed Naeramarth was a name only vaguely familiar to her. Still, she had her suspicions. Her 'most stalwart of allies' was certainly Anguirél, and the House of Hurin had ended with Turin while Gondolin still stood. In the morning she would seek after more details from Elrond.

"Cabed Naeramarth, the Leap of Dreadful Doom," Elrond told her, "'twas a site 'nigh the banks of the River Teiglin. Once it was called Cabed-en-Aras, the Leap of the Deer, for in that place the river ran deep in a ravine, narrow and steep. 'Twas there that Turin son of Hurin slew Glaurung, the Wyrm of Morgoth. That land is held sacred, just as the lives of those buried 'nigh were deemed accursed."

Helluin regarded Elrond's words with nothing less than amazement. The River Teiglin had run in western Beleriand, but that land now lay 'neath the Sundering Sea. Indeed all Beleriand had been drowned at the end of the First Age.

"Nay, not all, though very nearly so," Elrond disagreed. "Ere the first of the Edain set sail for Elenna, they tested their seacraft in many ships under the tutelage of Cirdan's folk. Amongst those to set sail from Forlindon in those days, some discovered remnants of Beleriand that still stood above the water. These they named by fancy and their best reckoning. So were found closest, Himling, and then the larger mass of Tol Fuin, and finally alone to the south and furthest, Tol Morwen. Whyfore would thou know these things, Helluin?" But the dark Noldo said 'naught in response, for a command had been laid upon her by an authority she deemed exempt from question. Ere its completion her quest concerned none upon the Hither Shores save those named to partake of it.

And now Helluin knew where she was sent and understood the errand set before her, and she declared nothing about it to any. Helluin and Beinvír left for Lindon on 4 Nórui, (June 4th) and passed west through the lands with stealth. It took them until 27 Nórui to reach the Grey Havens, but the fleet of Númenor still lay at anchor.

The Dúnedain army was returning but slowly for many were injured and all were weary. Only a part of the cavalry had arrived. In Mithlond, though all stood in readiness to sail, there was a sense of ease now that the war was won. Helluin and Beinvír asked after the captain that Ulmo had mentioned, and after two days they found him supping in the common room of an inn along the southern shore.

Captain Mórfang was a tall Dúnadan with very dark brown hair and dark eyes rather than the more common grey, and these almost Elven bright, recalling the blood of the First House of the Atani, or perhaps a foremother of that house long in the past. True to his name, he sported a thick black beard, neatly trimmed and including a moustache. Helluin and Beinvír found his brash appearance belied a quiet and serious nature. He was well read in lore and history even for a sea captain, precise in his speech, whether in Adûnaic, Sindarin, or Quenya, and both demanding and proud of his crew. He was, at the time of their meeting, but 44 years of age, very young for a sea captain, but well respected and deemed highly competent by his peers. Beyond this, he was possessed of a deep seated sense of pride and responsibility.

"Captain, thou may think me fey, or perhaps deluded," Helluin had said, "but I am come hither at the command of the Lord of the Waters, and this for the second time in my life, and I am to undertake a mission at his behest. Thus I am in need of a captain and a ship."

"And howsoever hath thou come to engage me in thy quest," he asked, not for a moment questioning the veracity of her statement. 'Twas as if he had read the truth of her heart in her eyes and trusted his own judgment, something Helluin hadn't expected from a mortal.

"Indeed thy name was put forth by the Lord Ulmo," she replied, "and I questioned not his wisdom."

The captain nodded. It made sense to him. He was one of those few amongst the armada who owned his own ship rather than sailed as a commissioned officer for the crown. He was a Captain Venturer, not a Naval Officer, and only due to the dire need for ships had he agreed to serve as a troop transport.

"Whither goes't thou, Helluin?" He asked, expecting perhaps Lond Daer or Edhellond.

"Tol Morwen," she said softly.

At her words the captain sucked in his breath, for to him, they carried the ring of fate. Not since ere the foundering of Beleriand in the last Age had a mortal Man set foot upon that hallowed ground. Yet who was he to gainsay a Vala? He was called. He would sail.

Helluin and Beinvír took ship from Mithlond with the next day's tide, and with fair weather and calm seas made their way to Tol Morwen. The solitary isle lay some 250 miles west off the coast of Forlindon, and about 225 miles north of the Gulf of Lune. It was small, so small in fact, that Helluin took it for an omen that they had found it at all in the vastness of the Sundering Sea.

Coming thence to the shore of that blessed isle after but six days aboard ship, they were the first to make landfall upon it since the changing of the world at the end of the First Age. Helluin led Beinvír and Captain Mórfang ashore alone, leaving behind the crew, and she guided them inland from the narrow strand. Helluin bore a small sack o'er one shoulder and Beinvír a light, narrow-bladed shovel. They made their way uphill until they reached the highest ground, and this was 'nigh a tall grey stone, just as the Lord Ulmo had said.

Then coming to stand before its face, they saw runes carved deep upon it in the Cirth of Doriath, and though those letters had borne many centuries of weathering, still they were to be understood. There Helluin read in the Sindarin tongue, TURIN TURAMBAR DAGNIR GLAURUNGA¹, and beneath, NIENOR NÍNIEL². Equally weathered, but more crudely carved and now barely readable upon the stone's western face, they made out the words,Si gohain úben e-chae Morwen Eledhwen³. ¹(TURIN TURAMBAR DAGNIR GLAURUNGA, Turin Master of Doom Glaurung's Bane, Sindarin) ²(NIENOR NÍNIEL, Mourning Tear-Maiden, Sindarin)³(Si gohain úben e-chae Morwen Eledhwen, lit trans Here together with them (is) the resting place (of )Morwen Eledhwen, ver transHere lies also Morwen Eledhwen= (here) + go- (together) + hain(3rd pers pl neut pro, them) + úben(not without, with) + e-chae (the resting place)mor(dark) + (g)wen(maiden) eledh(Elf ar,) + (g)wen(maiden) Sindarin)

Now Captain Mórfang, knowing this grave site for what it was, fell to his knees with tears in his eyes, doing honor and reverence in memory of this fell fighter of the Edain, the accursed and the ill-fated son of the greatest mortal warrior of Beleriand. Hurin was a man who had defied a Vala rather than submit to his evil will. He had lived in torment; a prisoner cursed and forced to watch the destruction of his family, yet through all his years of captivity he had never bowed to Morgoth. Long the captain knelt unmoving before the stone and the shadows crept 'round it from west to east fleeing the sun.

When finally he blinked and looked up again, he noted Helluin slowly walking a spiral of diminishing radius around the grave site. Beinvír stood quietly off to the west with the sun at her back, casting forth a lengthening shadow before her as she watched. Helluin was moving in silence, a determined look upon her face, with the unsheathed sword Anguirél held point downwards before her. The black blade was clenched unwavering in her grasp, passing a couple inches above the ground, the sole focus of her attention.

Around and around the stone she went, and though the captain couldn't be absolutely sure, still it appeared that Helluin's course covered every inch of ground. He knew no mortal would have been able to survey the land so precisely, but he didn't doubt such ability in one of the Eldar. 'Twas merely one of the many mysteries he'd observed that separated the two kindreds of the Children of Iluvatar.

What treasure she sought was also a mystery. Helluin had claimed to be searching at Ulmo's command, but she had repeatedly refused to name her purpose. Indeed since their initial meeting he had learned little beyond what she had first revealed. Of course he was curious, but he was also patient.

The captain continued watching Helluin closely, following her slow progress with his eyes, trying to discern any shift in her attention, any telltale alteration in her focus. He craned his neck as she went out of sight behind him around the stone. Captain Mórfang found that Helluin's continued motion, unchanging in pace and purpose, was lulling to the eyes, and ere long the captain found himself yawning and blinking to maintain his attention on her. How did she herself keep awake, he wondered? How did she keep her mind from wandering? She had been at it for hours. Surely it had to be boring even to one of the Firstborn. And how did Beinvír manage to watch her, motionless hour after hour as she had remained, in what must be an even more boring task? He couldn't find an answer, and as the sun sank to the waves, his head nodded.

"Yé! Utúvienyes!¹" Helluin cried out, startling the captain from his doze. ¹(Yé! Utúvienyes! Behold! I hath found it!=(look here!, lo!) + U-(ómataina) + túva-(come upon, find) + -ie(perf. near past, have found) + -n(ye-)(1st pers subj, I) + -s(3rd pers neut obj, it) Quenya)

Captain Mórfang jerked around to find Helluin half a fathom from the stone's eastern side, forcing the tip of Anguirél into the earth. A bluish flame, shifting and ghostly, seemed to waver over the blade's surface. Beinvír was striding towards her bearing the shovel. He looked on in horror, believing that they intended to excavate Turin's grave! An Elf was going to desecrate the grave of the son of Hurin Thalion! He leaped to his feet.

"By the Holy Names of the Valar, surely thou intend not to disturb the bones of the dead," he exclaimed. He rushed over to Helluin and stared at the ground in shock. The black bladed sword was free of her hand and working its way deeper into the soil of its own volition. There was something viscerally terrifying about the weapon's animation.

"My Lord Captain, I seek not to disturb the sleep of this noble Adan¹, but only to repay a debt laid upon me long ago." ¹(Adan, Man, (sing.), (pl. Edain),one of mortal race of the Three Houses of the Elf Friends of the First Age. Sindarin)

"And what debt can'st thou possibly owe to the House of Hurin, whose last son long ago passed beyond Arda?" Turin had died o'er 1,800 years before.

"Upon the field of the Nirnaeth Arnoediad ere all was lost, Hurin Thalion and his brother urged me away from the coming defeat, but charged me to succor the sons of their houses yet to be. At Avernien I paid that debt to the House of Huor. This day I shalt repay the noble House of Hurin."

Captain Mórfang didn't know whether to believe what he had just heard. Though he knew well the story of the Sack of Avernien and its Avenger, those deeds had occurred so long ago that to speak with one who had lived in those times was numbing. Indeed he'd had grave doubts about the propriety of coming hither to Tol Morwen at all. The Dúnedain considered this ground sacred. On impulse he reached out for the hilt of the sword, which by now stood with o'er half its length in the soil.

"Stand ye fast! Thy death shalt surely find thee and soon, distant son of Dúrrél¹," Anguirél's icy voice warned. "Hinder thou not the search of a next of kin." ¹(Dúrrél, Dark Daughter, dúr(dark) + rél(daughter) Sindarin)

The captain withdrew his hand as if it had been burnt and stared at the sword in horror. When he looked up, Helluin and Beinvír were both staring closely at him.

"Who was Dúrrél?" Beinvír asked. Helluin was curious too, but had her suspicions.

It was some time ere Captain Mórfang could find his voice. He was in shock and had indeed many questions of his own.

"Until this moment none knew for sure if indeed Lady Dúrrél had ever lived," he said at last. "It hath been said that she was by three years the elder daughter of Baragund and that she left Dorthonian for marriage still young in the very year of the Dagor Bragollach. But the House of Bëor was all but destroyed in that war and much was forgotten, and Lady Dúrrél came not into the tales of those years."

Beinvír nodded to him but Helluin was silent. Removed by 1,800 years, Captain Mórfang was a distant cousin of Turin, second cousin of Tuor, and therefore related with yet a further degree of separation to both Elrond and the Kings of Númenor. No wonder Ulmo chose him, she thought, for this place would mean more to him than to any other.

"Dig thou hither," Anguirél declared, prompting Beinvír forward with the shovel.

Helluin withdrew the sword and sheathed her, then took the shovel and began to dig. She proceeded slowly and carefully down the line Anguirél had penetrated, until at last she struck metal at the bottom of the narrow hole.

Setting aside the shovel, Helluin reached into the hole with her long arm. Twice she searched underground and twice she brought up her hand bearing black steel. First came the hilt shard, ending mid-blade in a clean break. Next came the distal shard. Helluin tested the joint and found that the breaks matched. Nothing had been left behind.

She set down the halves of Anglachel, renamed Gurthang by Turin after reforging in Nargothrond, and cleaned them. After all the years in the earth, the black steel showed no tarnish, but the pale fire of the blade was extinguished and it spoke no more. When Helluin was done, she placed the shards in the sack. Then she stood and carefully refilled the hole.

"We art finished, I deem," she announced, hefting the sack over her shoulder.

Without further comment, Helluin led the way back downhill to the ship, a silent Beinvír and a somber Captain Mórfang trailing behind. He had much to think about, for alone of all Men living in Middle Earth, he had seen the last resting place of Turin Turambar and Morwen Eledhwen, and the Black Sword of Nargothrond. In that same hour he had seen also the Black Sword of Gondolin. He may well have been the only Man to ever see both of the sentient blades, forged ere the ruin of Beleriand by Eol of Nan Elmoth, while perhaps the last to see the twain together had been the smith himself.

Like most of the Dúnedain he had been raised with an acquaintance of the lore of the past. More than many though, he knew not only the history of Westernesse, but also the stories of the First Age and Beleriand. Yet never before had he felt with such immediacy his connection to the legendary Edain of the past. Lives lived well 'nigh two millennia before had become real in the present as he'd confronted the artifacts upon Tol Morwen. And he had done so in the company of one who had lived in those far gone days, had known those whose names had already faded into myth; one whose memories stretched back far further still. He could only wonder what Helluin intended to do next.

They cast off the following morning and rode the tide southwest, out to sea rather than heading southeast back to land. Captain Mórfang gave Helluin a questioning look but held his peace and followed the heading she had requested. They maintained this course for a week, crossing the most accommodating seas the crew had ever sailed, and reckoned that they had come some 1,600 miles, placing them north and well west of Númenor…and for a mortal ship, uncomfortably close to the Shadowy Seas 'nigh Aman.

"Stand hither now and hold thy position, Captain," Helluin said that evening after climbing the mainmast and searching the waters ahead with her Elven sight, "for upon thy vessel 'tis forbidden to venture further. We shalt tarry no more than a day."

Captain Mórfang simply nodded and passed the orders to the sailing master. He wondered if his passengers were to be taken hence to the Blessed Shores, leaving thence the Mortal Lands forever. Night fell with no sign of activity upon the sea, and through the hours of darkness no word came from the watch. In the morning a squall approached and by the third hour past dawn the ship was deep in a fog bank, though no rain fell.

The crew found themselves in an eerie seascape, wherein sight ended at the gunwales and the upper masts were lost in a shroud of cloud. Sounds were muffled and even the lapping of the waves upon the hull seemed to come softly and from a great distance. No hint of sun shone o'erhead, and indeed one quarter looked much as another, and there was no clue as to the hour save the sandglass. The only movement 'nigh to hand was the slowly swirling tendrils of fog which made their way amidst the lines and rigging and laid upon all souls the feeling of a slowing of time unto a standstill. So pervasive and convincing was this illusion that none dared to move swiftly, for to do so had come to seem unnatural.

Sometime near what the ship's bell declared to be noon, Helluin and Beinvír made their way topside and stood amidships at the rail upon the starboard side. Here they were facing west, if the ship had not rotated in its position, and there they waited, drawing the attention of the watch. Captain Mórfang thought it wise to join them, and so he came to stand beside Helluin, one hand upon the rail, staring out into the fog.

Shortly later, or so it seemed, though the passing of time was a futile exercise without a rumor of the sun, a whisper upon the water was heard, as of the soft passage of a hull. The captain leaned upon the rail squinting, the better to see any that approached. Then out of the murk came a swan-prowed ship, white timbered, and with a subtle glimmer of light about it. Its single mast bore only a furled sail, and yet the craft hove alongside and smoothly slowed to a halt. The captain and his crew were very impressed; they could not hath maneuvered better under the fairest of conditions. But how had this crew found them with visibility so poor? With his crew he stared at the new arrivals in wonder.

The mariners of the Amanyar, for they could be no others, cast up no lines, nor sought to fix the two crafts together in any way, yet never did they drift apart, but maintained their relative positions as one. Upon the deck of the white ship stood but six figures, four in the raiment of sailors, doubtlessly Teleri out of Alqualonde like the seacraft, and other two robed in white. These were golden haired, tall and grave. Their eyes were strongly lit with the Light of Aman and their bright faces were utterly ageless. So unnatural did they appear that the captain found his mouth dry and his hands shaking upon the rail.

Vanyar, Helluin thought, and no doubt lords of that kindred. Their like I hath not seen in a very long time…not since they came to war in Beleriand, and thence only from afar. Longer still hast it been ere I last saw any of Lord Ingwe's people so close. To these two, Helluin and Beinvír bowed deeply.

"Vanima. Utúliet¹," the nearer of the robed figures said in a voice that was at once soft but piercing. ¹(Vanima (good)Utúliet, Thou hath come, = túla- (come) + U- + -ie (perf near past suff) + -t (subj pro, thou) Quenya)

"Ten i valie Ulmou, utúlien¹," Helluin calmly replied. ¹(Ten i valie Ulmou, utúlien, By the order of Ulmo, I hath come, = ten (because) + i (the) + vala- (order(by vala) + -ie (verbal noun) + Ulmo + -u (gen, of) +túla- (come) + U- + -ie (perf near past) + -n(subj pron,I) Quenya)

At a nod from the robed one she had spoken with, Helluin handed the sack over the rail and lowered it by a line to the uplifted hands of the Vanya on the white ship. Without looking, he passed it to his companion.

"Namárie¹, Heldalúne Maica i móremenel²," he said. ¹(Namárie, farewell Quenya)²(Heldalúne = helda (naked) + lúne (blue), Quenya trans of Sindarin Helluin = hel(d) (naked) + luin (blue)Maica i móremenel, Piercing the Dark Heavens = maica (piercing) + i (art, the) + móre (dark) + menel (heavens) Quenya trans of the Sindarin Maeg-mórmenel)

At once the white ship began to move away, but ere a moment had passed, the figure let the merest hint of a grin shape his lips and he called back to Helluin.

"Arandil tultat melarya yerna melisserya¹."¹(Arandil tultat melarya yerna melisserya, Arandil sends (for you) his love to his old lover = Arandil + tutta-(send for) + -t (pron suff, you) + mela- (love) + -rya (poss pron, his) + yerna(old)+ melisse(f.)(lover) + -rya (poss pron, his) Quenya)

To this Helluin laughed lightly, but Beinvír possessively wrapped her arms around Helluin and planted a deep kiss upon her lips. It warmed her heart greatly when she felt Helluin's arms come around her and pull her closer yet. The Green Elf was very happy to think her claim would be conveyed to Aman. Let my reputation precede me hence beyond the Halls of Mandos, she thought in satisfaction, and let my beloved's old flame find his happiness in his love for his king. He was unwise to let her get away.

It took only moments for the white ship carrying the two Vanyar to disappear into the fog, and it went thither in silence as it had come. Ere evening the fog blew off, revealing a fine sunset and a calm sea. A gentle breeze came up from the west, and quickly it grew to a comfortable strength for sailing. They had completed their mission and were being dismissed from the waters 'nigh the Undying Lands.

"Would thou convey us hence to Lindon, my good Captain?" Helluin asked.

"Gladly shalt I do so, Helluin," Captain Mórfang said, "and I should thank thee as well, for in thy company I hath seen wonders."

"Such is a part of what keeps my heart upon the Hither Shores, for I hath long ago seen all upon those Undying." Here she looked over and met Beinvír's eyes and held her glance until the captain cleared his throat and withdrew.

"Shalt we go thither," she asked the Green Elf, casting a quick glance up to the talan atop the mainmast, "it looks to be a fine night to watch the stars."

At a nod from her beloved she began to climb the rigging.

To Be Continued

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